Martial Arts
Now on display

Martial Arts

Martial Arts worldwide

The Martial Arts exhibition shows why people practise martial arts, combining personal stories and social themes. Martial Arts shows the power and beauty of martial arts as well as the traditions and stories behind the sport. Step into the ring yourself and learn about kung fu, karate, capoeira, kickboxing, pencak silat and Nguni stick fighting, among others, and discover what all these sports have in common.

What is Martial Arts?

Worldwide, martial arts are practiced by hundreds of millions of people. This exhibition will show you well-known and lesser-known martial arts, and reveal what motivates people to fight. A martial artist never gives up the fight – especially not with themselves. They aim for personal growth, both physical and spiritual. Martial arts prepare you for the many blows that life can throw at you. They help deal with violence, as well as stress and insecurity. 

However, martial arts are not just about the individual. In fact, they are often about the club, the neighbourhood, or the community. Traditions, styles and rituals bring people closer together. Many martial arts have played a role in strengthening communities throughout history. Fighting techniques are passed down from generation to generation.

Foto muay thai, Thailand, Lord K2
Photo: Muay Thai, Thailand, Lord K2

Martial Arts development

The word martial refers to Mars, the Roman god of war. The world over, military training of the past turned into martial arts in times of peace. Often, martial arts are historically linked to resisting oppression. This gave these traditions a secret aspect, as self-defence techniques must be kept hidden. After these times of conflict, small underground martial arts grew into the international sports they are today. Simultaneously, they also became a source of national pride.

Dutch kickboxers highlighted

Martial Arts also pays tribute to 12 kickboxing champions from the Netherlands. For example, four-time champion of the K-1 World Grand Prix tournament in Japan Ernesto Hoost and 12-time world champion Jorina Baars are given a stage in the exhibition. You can only marvel at the achievements of Amira ‘The Wondergirl’ Tahri, who at the age of 14 is already a seven-time European- and world champion. And one of the championship belts of King of Kickboxing Rico Verhoeven is on display.

View of upcoming exhibition

The exhibition zooms in on 15 martial arts: boxing, capoeira, fighting Cholitas and lucha libre show wrestling, taekwondo, kalaripayattu, karate, kendō, kickboxing, kung fu, māu rākau, Muay Thai, Nguni stick fighting, pencak silat, and zurkhaneh wrestling. It is the first major exhibition to bring together martial arts from around the world with special items from its own collection, many loans, contemporary art and videos.

Wooden mace (wahaika)_New Zealand before 1886
Wooden mace (wahaika)_New Zealand before 1886

Experience Martial Arts

This exhibition is all about experience: martial arts is something you practice. There are multiple interactive installations. Often simple and hands-on, occasionally advanced, grand and digital. Step into the ring, test your reflexes, experience the speed of Bruce Lee; punch the punching bag as hard as you can; copy the Kung fu movement on the screen in front of you and don't get distracted; fight virtually against each other; etc. etc. 

Martial Arts is on display from 31 May 2024 until 31 August 2025 in Wereldmuseum Amsterdam.